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Essay

The Empire's new clothes

Come to Britain and see the crisis

WHEN THE GUARDIAN’S international editor, Anthony Hartley, visited Amsterdam in 1958, he was immediately struck by the quiet confidence of the citizenry. It seemed such a contrast to the temper of 1950s Britain that he could not help contemplating the underlying cause. ‘They have learned to live in Europe as mere Europeans,’ he ventured, ‘and – let us make no mistake – that is the way we ourselves and every ex-colonial power will have to live in the not-so-distant future.’ Hartley marvelled at the extraordinary success of the Dutch in relinquishing an imperial state of mind, not only in puncturing the moral imperatives of their civilising mission overseas but also their ready embrace of a new, downsized self-image drawn to a European scale – a far cry from the ‘narrowing of horizons and a sense of frustration’ he found in English society. Permeating his diagnosis were metaphors of marginalisation, evoking a British people... Read more

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From Griffith Review Edition 59: Commonwealth Now © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

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